It is rapidly approaching the end of the school year for this year’s batch of seminarians and the number of young men waiting to enter next year is just starting to firm up, so this really isn’t the most perfect time to post this for you parish vocation committees out there who are looking for a new idea to spark interest from your parish. However, now is the perfect time to start planning for next school year and this is one of my favorite ideas to propose to parishes: ADOPT A SEMINARIAN!
Having your parish adopt a young man in formation makes the formation process real to the people in the parish and it is relatively simple to orchestrate. Just contact the vocation office! We’ll get you in contact with a seminarian (of your choice or ours) and you decide with the seminarian the details of contact from there. A number of the guys receive letters from various parishioners throughout the year, some receive cards on their birthdays, and most of the time the parish pulls together a care package of sorts to send to him at least once in the year. In exchange, the seminarian will often write letters to the parish to be posted in the bulletin and at least once a year will come to visit the parish for a meet and greet in some form or another.
Through this process the parish gets to know a real person in formation who can tell real stories of life in the seminary and, in turn, receives real, visible support for his formation and discernment while in the seminary. It’s a win-win all around.
Of course, any project like this requires a few general guidelines and these are what I suggest:
- Respect his time and his privacy:
- No seminarian will be able to respond to each letter or card he is sent. When writing keep things short and always try to convey a message of support and affirmation for his willingness to give his life for this Church.
- Let him share what he is comfortable sharing (e.g., his birthday, his email address, his phone number, etc.)
- Give him plenty of time to plan visits to your parish. He is going to be busy with school and other requirements of his formation process so giving him a few weeks’ notice and several optional dates makes it much less of an “extra obligation” and more of a “great opportunity”
- As much as you can, get everyone involved:
- While writing letters is a great activity we often associate with older generations, receiving cards and letters from young and old alike is really helpful to seminarians. They will be ministering to the entire body of the Church: make sure he sees that the entire body is awaiting his leadership and help.
- Promote this adoption and have fun!
- Make sure that everyone knows about this seminarian and do your best to introduce him to everyone (again, the use of the bulletin to post his letters to you) and keep everyone up to date on his progress.
- Seminarians are normal guys with varying personalities. Feel free to ask him about his favorite things to do and some of his favorite stories.
Regarding care packages:
- Keep it simple – The seminarian is going to enjoy any gift you decide to send his way and will meet it with heartfelt gratitude. Sending an overly elaborate gift might increase the pressure on him and his discernment process and may also gain him the jealous eye of his brothers (in other words, DON’T SPOIL HIM).
- If you’re sending goodies don’t send so many he can’t eat himself or not enough that he can’t share with his brothers. (Also, make sure he is not allergic to the food you plan to send him.)
- Spiritual bouquets make great, meaningful gifts, that cost nothing but the sacrifice of time spent in prayer.
- Keep it practical:
- If you’re sending “actual” gifts, make them useful: Gift cards (especially for gas stations) are great; if you want to buy books, ask him to create a “Wish List” on Amazon and have parishioners go and select specific ones for him.
- Ask him if he has any particular hobbies or interests that you can support in some way – even through a donation in his name to his favorite charity
- If you want to get him liturgical garb (such as an alb), often times it is best to let him tell you what style he likes best so that he will continue to like wearing it long after the gift has arrive
- Try not to get him something he already has:
- No matter what you plan to get him, there is no harm in asking him if he already has it. (E.g. many seminarians begin there studies with just the “shorter Christian prayer” version of the Liturgy of the Hours, but others will get the full 4 volume set by the end of their first year. Both groups may want what the other has for various reasons.)
- Keep in mind that seminarians are often living in dorm rooms with little room to store duplicate things.
- Don’t ordain him a priest just yet:
- In all your dealings with him, continue to emphasize that you are praying for him and his discernment process and that you are there to support him in his formation, but a seminarian doesn’t need specifically priestly items until the very last moment. In fact, it is a good idea for the representatives of the parish to be present at the seminarian’s ordination and prepare a gift for him on behalf of the parish (this is when the priestly garb would come in).
In the end, the adoption is not about getting the seminarian really cool stuff, but about showing him, with regular contact, that he means something to this local Church and that people are truly praying for him and are here to support him in his journey of discernment.
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- Priesthood Ordination Novena: Day 1
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- Interview with Fr. Tim Fahey
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- Priesthood Ordination 2016 (Vocation Office version)
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This video features our young men who are in college seminary for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
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What do parents have to say about their sons call to the priesthood? We took the opportunity to interview a few wonderful parents to learn more about the call to become a Catholic priest and the transformation of their son.